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Gas Emissions Can be Substantially Reduced in Developing Countries, Studies Find - 2001-08-14

In response to criticism of the U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, President Bush says he wants a climate treaty that won't harm America's economy and won't exempt developing countries. As the treaty stands countries like China or India with large populations are not required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as are the industrial nations.

While emissions from cars and other vehicles in China and India are likely to soar by 2020, two new studies show how these emissions can be substantially curtailed.

Emissions from cars and trucks are a leading source of greenhouse gas thought to cause global warming. In the next twenty years those emissions could rise as much as four-fold in Delhi, India and seven-fold in Shanghai, China, the two cities studied in the reports released by the PEW Center on Global Climate Change. But the studies also say aggressive public and private sector initiatives could ease traffic congestion and cut air pollution.

Lead author Daniel Sperling of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California says China has made a deliberate effort to manage growth with investment in mass transit and infrastructure in Shanghai and its eleven satellite cities. But, he says the projected quadrupling of cars and trucks in operation in the next two decades would increase transport emissions in a city that for its size and wealth now generates relatively low emissions levels. "They have very high taxes and very large restrictions on car ownership, and with joining the WTO and with the rapidly rising incomes there is going to be tremendous pressure for car ownership," Mr. Sperling says. "And, where are these people going to drive? Where are those vehicles going to be? How are those people going to get around? It costs billions and billions of dollars to add road infrastructure, and in fact in Shanghai there is no place to put it in the downtown areas."

Some options are specialized roads for smaller vehicles and bicycles, incentives for small cars and clean efficient motorcycles and scooters, and more and better express bus service. Daniel Sperling says that while the city ponders these initiatives, it is also investing in an emerging automobile industry in the region. "They've got to reconcile these two different competing strategies," Mr. Sperling says.

Let's turn now to Delhi, India. How does this city contrast with Shanghai or do they share some of the same problems? "Delhi is a very different city," Mr. Sperling says. "For one thing it is not as affluent as Shanghai. And, it just doesn't function as well as a city as Shanghai. There are many different agencies and bureaucracies and they don't work together very well, and they are really struggling with how to accommodate the explosion in population growth. The mass transportation system is low quality and people are reacting against it by turning to personal transport much more quickly than they have in Shanghai and almost any other city in the world."

Daniel Sperling says Delhi faces urban gridlock and dangerous levels of pollution from the proliferation of low-cost highly polluting motor scooters and motorcycles. But, he says one encouraging sign is that India's Supreme Court has stepped in to help bring about change. "They are requiring more investment in the rail transit system," Mr. Sperling says. "They are requiring cleaning-up of vehicles. So that can help on the pollution side, and that can help to some extent improve the transit system."

But, he says the local government in Delhi must go beyond these state-mandated initiatives. "Clearly, there has to be a more concerted effort in managing the infrastructure investments, in managing the operation of the mass transit system and in managing the land-use growth and how that is accommodated as well as the pollution."

Daniel Sperling says as developing countries consider their options, they may find that the strategies they can use to reduce transit emissions can produce the same benefits as those designed to improve the economy, social conditions and public health. The full text of both reports is available on the Internet at www.pewclimate,org